Cast as the leading lady in the music video for Drake‘s cinematic love story “Find Your Love,” Maliah Michel went from a virtually unknown model to the number one topic on gossip blogs across the web. After that faithful trip to Jamaica, rumors started circulating suggesting that Maliah and Drake may be sharing more than just a working relationship and on camera romance. Photos of the two canoodling in various nightclubs only fueled the fire, while Drake remained tightlipped on their budding relationship. The day of Drake’s debut album release, VIBE took a few minutes to speak with Ms. Michel on how she got into the game, linked with Hip-Hop’s new golden child and their current relationship status. —Mikey Fresh
VIBE: How did you get into modeling?
Maliah: I just fell into it—modeling wasn’t really something that I always wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but more on the acting side. Really, I kind of gave up on acting at an early age. Certain situations just made me feel like I could never really do it.
What turned you off from acting?
I had a lot of family problems growing up and I ended up leaving home really early to live with my sister. She was the one who taught me everything I know about life and being a woman. It was just really stressful having a bad relationship with my mother, everything really started falling apart after I graduated high school.
Did you think about going to college or other career plans?
I had a scholarship to Calstate Northridge for softball, but I just couldn’t go through with the whole college thing. I had no focus — life was just too much for me at the time.
How were you supporting yourself?
I was in this program called Americorps which was like an assisted living program, but it wasn’t much. My sister and I stayed in a one bedroom apartment with her two kids. We were basically just sharing everything we had and holding each other down the best we could. But when I turned eighteen — I went to the strip club and that’s when I started making my own money. I got my first gig at a club in Beverly Hills.
Were you making a lot at the time?
Actually, my first club was a white club and I’m vuluptous (laughs), so I really didn’t fit in there. I was probably only making eighty dollars a night. But at the time it was a lot to me. Before that I was just living off a stipend from Americorps which was just like two-hundred dollars every two weeks. The whole reason I dealt with it though was that at the end of the year though they were going to give me a scholarship to the Santa Monica College of Cosmetology.
Did you continue dance while you were going to school?
Yea, I started working at a black club, and I was making five-hundred dollars a night, easy. And when you’re nineteen —that’s great money, but it was a pretty rough environment, girls had pimps, there was constant fighting and drugs were always around. I think a big part of what saved me was that my brothers were really known and had a reputation. So nobody really messed with me at all. Everybody just treated me like their little sister.
So when did you stop dancing?
Actually, I still do dance. I quit for about two years though. I saved a lot of money and I bought a house in Vegas. Really, I tried to settle down and get married. I ended up getting engaged but my fiance got addicted to crack and heroin and everything went in a downward spiral. I lost everything… my house, all my money. That’s when I really buried myself in church. I was going door to door witnessing with the church —I wasn’t dancing or modeling for a while.=
Wow, so you went from the pole to the pulpit…
All I did was go to church. I mean, I literally had to pull a gun on my ex-fiance. That whole experience led me to God.
Was he physically abusive toward you?